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Portage is a city in Kalamazoo County with a population of about 49,000 residents, located in southwestern Michigan. A number of serious crimes and other problems associated with the local prostitution market have been well-documented in the city of Portage and other areas of Kalamazoo County. For example, in 2017 a man charged in a prostitution ring was sentenced to four years of probation by the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court and ordered to pay fines and court costs. He had been charged with human trafficking, a felony, transporting a person for the purpose of prostitution, a felony, and engaging the services of a prostitute, a misdemeanor. The human trafficking charged was dismissed in June 2016, according to court records. In a plea deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to tampering with an electronic monitoring device and being a habitual offender. In exchange, the transporting and engaging services of a prostitute charges were dropped. The charges stemmed from an operation in which investigators from the Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team, along with officers from the Portage Department of Public Safety, conducted the sting at a motel. The operation was in response to citizen complaints and reports of women being forced into prostitution for narcotics and to repay narcotics debts by area dealers. During this operation, four women, ages 23-30, admitted to being drug users and said that drugs led to them being forced into the sex trade.
Among their efforts to address such issues, the Portage Department of Public Safety has addressed the demand for prostitution that drives all sex trafficking, and has collaborated on conducting reverse stings. For example, in 2016 police officials from Kalamazoo and Portage teamed up to place an advertisement soliciting sex on a website commonly used for prostitution. The Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team, a joint operation of police officers from the cities of Kalamazoo and Portage departments of public safety created to run drug investigations, then used an informant to agree to pose as a prostituted person for the sting operation. In March 2016, a Western Michigan University student answered the decoy advertisement. When he paid the informant $100, police were listening from an adjoining hotel room and through the door. The student was not arrested but admitted to paying for sex. The WMU student was never charged with a committing a crime, but police seized his cellphone and $100 and kept it through a process known as civil asset forfeiture.
- Portage Department of Public Safety
- Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety
Web Based Reverse Sting:
- https://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/police-set-up-crime-college-students-cellphone-100 (2017)
Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:
- “Kalamazoo Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition Targeting a Growing Crime”, Kalamazoo Gazette, June 13 2012.
- https://wwmt.com/news/local/investigation-reveals-prostitution-scandal-involving-former-kdps-officer (2015)
- https://www.fox17online.com/kalamazoo-officer-fired-over-prostitutes (2015)
- https://www.mlive.com/women_ages_23-30_forced_into_p.html (2016)
- https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/kalamazoo-michigan-man-convicted-sex (2016)
- https://wwmt.com/news/state/bill-would-prohibit-michigan-police-officers-from-having-sex-with-prostitutes (2017)
- https://wkfr.com/kalamazoo-man-charged-in-a-prostitution-ring-only-gets-probation (2017)
- https://wwmt.com/news/local/sex-trafficking-survivor-talks-at-ascension-borgess-about-experience-as-a-victim (2020)
- https://www.mininggazette.com/ring-of-silence-screening-expert-forum-tuesday (2022)